Band students recovering after water slide collapse

By Vic Micolucci, General assignment reporter, vic@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Campbell, General assignment reporter, ecampbell@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 12:02:32 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 01 2014 07:40:41 PM EDT

VIDEO: A local business owner says he and his family have been going to the pool for years and thought the slide could hold the weight after hearing of the slide collapse.

FLEMING ISLAND, Fla. -

A dozen Fleming Island High School band students ages 14 to 17 injured Thursday evening when a water slide at the Eagle Harbor Community Pool collapsed during gathering are all doing well, according to the school's principal.

Two 17-year-olds were hospitalized overnight and 10 other teenagers were treated for cuts and bruises after the collapse.

"The big sliding board broke with everyone on it," a 911 frantic caller said. "Please hurry! Kids, all in the water."

Clay County officials said that even though a sign located at stairs leading to the slide stated only one occupant should be on the slide at a time, there were 15 to 20 people on the slide when it broke in half and collapsed.

The Sheriff's Office said that five lifeguards working at the pool had everyone out of the water and were tending to the injured when deputies and rescue personnel arrived just after 7:15 p.m.

UNCUT: 911 calls report collapse, injuries
IMAGES:  Photos of collapsed water slide

One student reportedly went to UF Health with a head injury, but is said to be in stable condition. A second teenager was taken to Baptist Clay Medical Center with minor neck and back injuries.

Fleming Island's principal, Thomas PIttman, said when he got the call Thursday night he went to the hospital to visit the injured students and has since visited with all the teenagers injured. He said he is relieved there were no major injuries.

"As an adult that's in charge of kids and in education for 21 years, that is my job to protect these students," Pittman said. "We've got 2,100. I consider them my family. If any of them are hurt, I hurt for them. I want them to be treated just like I'd like my own kids to be treated."

Janis Kerekes, Clay County School Board member, called it an "unfortunate accident."

"This was a sanctioned event," Kerekes said. "They were having a band party, and I am sure that everything that was supposed to be done was being done correctly."

Eagle Harbor initially planned to open the pool on Friday, but News4Jax just learned it remained closed as state officials investigated the collapse. Because the water park, built in 1993, is the private property of The Crossings of Fleming Island, regular inspections are not required.

The pool party was sanctioned by the Clay County School District and parents or guardians signed a release, agreeing "to hold harmless the schools, school board and all employees" and "to take no legal action" if someone is hurt.

Clay County school officials said they were conducting a full investigation, but did not release any details on Friday.

Lisa Asencio, who was at the pool with her kids Wednesday, says the rules about using the slide are clear.

"One child at a time. They're only allowed to go down the slide a regular way, sitting, it wasn't supposed to happen that way," Asencio said. "I don't understand how they allowed that."

Eagle Harbor resident Efrain De Leon said he visits the slide frequently.  He said lifeguards don't monitor how many people are at the top of the slide, but if two or more people come down at the same time, they yell at you.

"The lifeguards are there at the bottom, but at the top, they definitely need someone to police it a little better," De Leon said.

The band director and principal updated the band students Friday to clear up any rumors or misunderstandings about what happened.

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